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Stanly student-athletes to be tested for antigens starting with summer workouts

Starting this summer, high school athletes across the state will be tested weekly for antigens.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization for an antigen test which can identify the COVID-19 virus.

In a recent joint meeting of Stanly County Schools and county commissioners, SCS Director of Student Services and Athletics Beverly Pennington presented information about the new process.

Over the summer, SCS will make some “small steps” to implement the program, she said, by testing football players, coaches and staff during offseason workouts. The suggestion for the testing comes from the state’s Department of Housing and Human Services and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

Athletes will have to give their permission to take part in weekly antigen testing before they can practice or compete. A nasal swab, one far less invasive than previous COVID swab tests, will be used. Results, Pennington said, will come in about 15 minutes.

“You can have a kid that is just totally asymptomatic and feels fine, but they are carrying the virus,” Pennington said.

Individuals who are symptomatic of COVID-19 will receive diagnostic testing with permission from a parent or guardian.

SCS’s school nursing staff will be first in line for training for the test. It will then train coaches and other school officials in test administration.

“You do not have to be a medical professional in order to administrate this test,” Pennington said.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided for test administrators.

The testing of athletes may also eventually extend to clubs and other school activities when school is back in session.

This summer’s testing will work as a trial period, Pennington said, to allow school officials to work through any problems with testing before school and sports returns full-time in August.

For the rest of the current academic year, temperature checks will be done and health questions asked of student-athletes.

Pennington said the new antigen testing had a pilot program in North Carolina in approximately 15 to 17 counties earlier this year. Stanly applied to the state to take part in next year’s rollout and received approval.

She said testing would be a positive thing for teams “because nothing hurts more than having to tell a team they were done (with their season).”

The student services director added antigen testing “is a continued path toward opening up, yet still operating in a pandemic.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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